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Research Project

Decarbonizing Marine Shipping: Air Quality Co-Benefits for Coastal Communities


In This Project, You’ll Learn About

  • How decarbonization of marine shipping can provide air quality co-benefits to coastal communities.
  • Co-benefits and trade-offs between greenhouse gas (GHG) and air pollution policies.
  • Policy strategies to reduce methane slip (unburned methane released by liquefied natural gas [LNG]-powered vessels).


In July 2023, the International Maritime Organization revised its GHG Strategy to commit the marine shipping industry to reach net-zero emissions by or around 2050. The current long-term target is aligned with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal. In light of the sector’s decarbonization strategy, this research explores to what extent achieving these goals will also reduce emissions of harmful pollutants – such as sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM2.5) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – and in turn, benefit the health of coastal and port communities in Canada. To answer this question, this project is developing an integrated modelling framework that links policy scenario analysis, emissions and air quality modelling, and health impact analysis.

The research team conducted a survey of multi-sectoral expert opinions on future decarbonization pathways for the maritime shipping industry. This expert input will enable the development of future emissions scenarios for greenhouse gases and other air pollutants from ships to improve air quality modelling tools in Canada. The project also included a MITACS-funded sub-project on developing policies for methane slip mitigation. This sub-project identified and evaluated measures and policy strategies to reduce methane slip on LNG-powered marine vessels.

Key Takeaway

Decarbonization of marine shipping offers potential co-benefits for improving air quality in coastal communities. However, there are also strategies to reduce shipping-related air pollution that may have unintended consequences for GHG emissions. Policy strategies are necessary to maximize co-benefits and reduce unintended consequences. For instance, to ensure that the shipping sector reduces methane slip from LNG-powered vessels and contributes to overall decarbonization goals.

Statements & Quotations

More policy approaches are needed to support planning for long-term decarbonization pathways that will avoid locking into fossil-carbon intensive systems.

Although measures to control methane emissions on LNG-powered marine vessels exist, there is currently little incentive to implement these measures, leading to increased climate warming impacts from LNG fuel use in the shipping sector. 

Regulations at the global level perform the best across a range of criteria for methane slip mitigation on LNG-powered marine vessels. 

Website Articles

Academic Publications

Laskar, I.I., & Giang, A. (2023). Policy approaches to mitigate in-use methane emissions from natural gas use as a marine fuelEnvironmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability3(2).

Research Team

This project was led by academic researchers at The University of British Columbia in collaboration with Clear Seas and funded by MEOPAR.

Research Team

Amanda Giang, PhD

Assistant Professor in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at UBC

Imranul Laskar

Doctoral Researcher, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at UBC

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